The success of innovative companies depends largely on an ability to identify and engage the unique individuals who can create brilliant new products and bring them to market. Companies do not innovate. People innovate.
Technology start-ups are often founded by innovators, and as these companies grow they need to round out the team. To sustain growth and survival in any quickly changing market, companies big and small need to continually attract the innovators who will keep them relevant. So the question looms, "are there tell-tale signs that will help you identify an innovator?"
I was excited to read this piece, How to Hire Innovators by New York's Fahrenheit212, a successful innovation consulting firm, that provides some insight into how they select and hire their team.
"Money and Magic"
The Fahrenheit212 team has coined this term for an ability to marry creativity and commercial strategy. In Designers, Product Managers, Engineers and Architects, it is the ability to not only innovate but to deliver big ideas that someone will pay for.
While it is tempting to simply choose someone who has innovated in the past, it's not that easy. You need to find someone who can be innovative in your environment, as part of your team. But just how do you see that in a resume, or listen for it in an interview?
These tips go beyond the qualifications on a resume, and get to the qualities that define an innovator:
Ask about interests and hobbies, passions beyond what is on the resume.
Are they passionate, interested, curious? Innovators love to ask questions. They devour new information, constantly seeking insights, stimulation and opportunities.
Look for travelers. Restless people take holidays in unusual places and come back to share what they’ve learned.
Have they lived abroad? Ex-pats are, by definition, confident risk-takers who share that ex-pat sensibility of looking to see what’s around the corner. Understanding different cultures fuels an ability to understand what people might want.
Are they an omnivorous eater? People who explore new foods, restaurants and concepts are curious seekers.
Find constructive critics. Folks who are fascinated by and opinioned about films, architecture, fashion, hotels, and web sites are interesting and important to conceiving innovative solutions.
Hire readers. Look for those people who walk down the street reading. They know stuff you don’t, but should.
X Factor. Be alert to the unusual quirk that catches you off guard and suggests that the box you might expect them to be in is not all it seems. A passion for acting, bagpipes prowess or being a leading expert on poodle behavior indicates commitment.
Whether you are a consulting firm looking to deliver innovative solutions to your clients, a tech start-up looking for the next break-through, or an established company looking for the sparks that will keep you competitive, unlocking the secret to hiring for innovation is critical.
After recently being invited to speak to a group of UX professionals in Waterloo, I paused to reflect on how this role has evolved over the past 10 years and what makes for a great one today.
I really only started to see UX emerge as a proper function in a software company about five years ago. Before that, we would see demand for user interface developers who could perform double duty in UX design. We looked for the rare candidates who really understood the user, but who would spend the bulk of their time coding. These roles typically rolled up to engineering.
Now we see almost every progressive tech company hiring UX professionals and leaders of UX at the start-up stage, and into roles where they have significant influence across both products and services. At every point of customer interaction, the experience is considered. UX is still very close to development, but a top professional doesn’t typically double as an engineer. In fact, the evolving UX professional often looks more like a product manager, absorbing the needs and wants of users and then distilling this insight into practical blueprints for product development and service delivery.
So if you’re building a career in UX, or looking to hire a UX professional, what can you expect? As in any interview, a hiring manager looks for great questions and great listening. Candidates need to have samples of their work and lots of great stories of accomplishments, challenges and successes. A history of great work is important, but values, soft skills and an overall passion for the work are key.
Some of the key traits of a great UX professional today include:
Customer facing skills – professionalism and communication
Personality, values and attitude that align with the company
Insightfulness – the ability to listen well, empathize and pick up subtext
Technical savvy & the ability to translate the needs and behaviour of users into practical terms
Business savvy and the understanding of how and why user experience impacts bottom line results
Influence – the ability to understand the objectives of others in the organization and add value across functions
And of course, the final characteristic that any employer will look for is passion – about UX, about the company mission and about the job.
(Note this piece was original posted to www.commercelab.ca - an incredible resource for digital media research and information about product commercialization in Canada)
Several readers took obvious offense to the implied feminism of the gender gap debate, and they missed the point.
"Why does every "gap" have to be filled? Males enjoy coding; females do not. Pretty simple... & requires no intervention."
"...Girls are given equal opportunity, anything more than this is coddling infantilization that only reinforces the stereotypes that girls can't cut it on their own. The more we use "boys clubs" as an excuse, the more we need to prop these girls up artificially." Mark Noel
"Nothing less than equal for women, nothing more than equal for men. It seems to be the motto of modern feminist governance." Mark Neil
And don't get me started on the comment about the legitimate bias against hiring women because of their inconvenient tendency to have babies!
I actually agree that there is a good case for exploring gender gaps in every field, regardless of which way the pendulum has swung. Sure, we also need more men in education and more female plumbers. But we've missed the whole point of WHY we should address this gap. It isn't because women are missing out on the opportunity to code, or because we are individually lamenting our exclusion from the tech boys club.
This is a big issue because as a tech community we need MORE skilled technical people. Not more women, just more - period. The tech economy isn't an elite club with limited opportunity. We are hungry for talent. More women doesn't mean less men. Sure, competition for top jobs will escalate when a new generation of technically savvy women hits the market. So yes, perhaps the mediocre developers should be fearful, but there will be plenty of room for those with skill.
If more women pursue careers in tech, the whole sector will grow and the economy will be stronger. Individual companies that foster work environments where women can thrive will have a distinct advantage. And I'll bet that those environments will be great for the men too.
I'm interested in what you think. How can we increase the number of women in tech - or should we bother trying?
(Image courtesy of [contributor name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)Read More...
In Waterloo, Canada's hub of technology and innovation, there are mixed emotions about the arrival of some significant US tech employers.
Companies like Google, Sybase and EA are already woven into the fabric of our bustling University town, offering interesting technical challenges and attractive comp plans to engineers who want to be part of something big. And now there are more international players, like Square and Motorola, who have set their sights set on Waterloo as a new home for engineers and innovators.
Tech companies that are faced with talent shortages in their US backyards are attracted by a combination of newly liberated BlackBerry employees, annual crops of engineers from top local schools and a community that embraces entrepreneurship and innovation. Yet the question hangs "is it good news when non-Canadian companies come to town and hire our best and brightest?"
On one side of the debate, some worry that the fruits of Canadian workers, their innovations and resulting revenues, are lost to US head-offices. There is fear that young talent will be lured by exciting relocation opportunities in California or New York, never to return.
But there is also a bright-side to this evolution in our local tech economy. Here are just a few things to consider:
Our personal and professional networks will expand as our connections become more global. Where geography puts distance between tech hubs, bringing global companies to our community makes the world much smaller and more accessible.
Canadians will gain varied experience in large global enterprises. These innovators and future business leaders will be inspired to think bigger. This experience will transform the next generation of domestic start-ups and will be carried with individuals as they move through their careers.
With greater career opportunities locally, Waterloo will become an even more attractive community for individuals considering the region as a home.
I see a significant upside in inviting global companies to invest in Waterloo. But I'm interested in what you think.
Do you agree that we should welcome the tech giants to our community, or do you think that there is a case for protecting our Canadian employers and preventing a talent drain?
About 3 out of 4 people who you hire, will turn into unenthusiastic or actively disgruntled dead weight. That’s right, our tech sector is failing miserably when it comes to employee engagement.
You may disagree, but this is the truth that came from a survey that published on RedCanary. The short story is that most of your employees don’t love you, are not committed to your business and are not giving you the effort and results that you were hoping for when you hired them.
How does this happen? You take time in selecting each employee, matching them to a carefully defined job spec. What could have changed between the hopeful infatuation of your pre-hire courtships, and the sad reality of your uninspired workforce?
You can focus on ways to improve management, build reward systems, or plan a cooler company picnic. But the problem goes right back to who you’ve hired and why.
The WHY piece is what has me most curious, as I see the same mistake happening time and again. A company sets out to find an expert when they see a problem that needs solving. The problems are short-term and tactical, and there are fires burning that need a quick and clever fix.
You need technical expertise for the next gen product.
You need a genius marketing campaign to drive sales.
You need a product roadmap based on deep industry know-how.
You need to replace that guy who just quit, before the place falls apart around your ankles!
So job descriptions are written, resumes are collected and your panic-stricken manager aims to hire the person most capable of plugging an operational hole. But beware the quick fix. With great intentions, your manager will make the best decision for the short-term problem. You’ll hire a long-term employee who has the top credentials for the problem of the day, but who lacks the values, passion and potential to grow with your team. Today’s hero, could be tomorrow’s liability.
Like signing an athlete on a long-term contract, just so that they can score a goal in your next game, you are making an expensive investment without considering the type of players your team needs for long-term victory.
So before you set out to make that next hire, stop. Understand what the short-term fix needs to look like, and then consider what kind of team member you’ll need to help your team succeed into the future. Hire for a passion that is aligned with your business. Hire for smarts, positivity, initiative and drive. Hire for the team you need today and tomorrow.
(previously published on RedCanary.ca)
In June 2013, Mario Laudi, founder of The Laudi Group and Red Canary, and I, presented as part of the MaRS Best Practices series for entrepreneurs.
We discussed the hiring and selection process and shared some tips on how to assemble a high-performance team.
In a room full of entrepreneurs, it was clear that typical recruiting methods were not leading to ideal results for these lean enterprises. Check out the video below to learn about what’s preventing you from seeing and hiring the best candidates.
See the Hot Tips Video:
(as published on RedCanary)
I am often asked for my opinion about adding pre-employment tests to the selection process. It would be easy for me to write a lengthy post about the validity of various test results and their ability to predict on the job success. We could have a heated debate about whether compatibility matters more than competency – if you have the right leadership in place.
But, I’ll save that fun for another day. The question that no one seems to be talking about, is how testing affects the candidate experience.
You’ve spent time, effort and money to send a message that your team is awesome. Everyone knows your company is a great place to exercise creativity, take initiative and fully utilize your talents. That’s good branding. But how does the message play when a candidate goes through your recruitment process – when you and your company are the ones being tested? As a reflection of their future working experience, your best candidates are looking for a recruitment process that is fun, engaging and that offers challenges where they can showcase their best qualities.
I understand the desire to build in hurdles that ensure only the best, smartest, most-engaged and productive workers reach your finish line. After all, you are probably thinking, “If they’re too lazy or disinterested to complete our assessment, then we don’t want them anyway. Good riddance!” So you introduce… TESTING. It’s statistically valid, so who cares if it is also trivial, frustrating and tedious! Candidates should be eager to sit through a grueling full-day inquisition. After all, it enables you to reduce a uniquely qualified human into a lump of data. What a great way to manage risk – your test makes everything black and white. It is almost impossible to make a bad hire and you are the master the recruiting universe. Or not.
Alas, your wonderfully accurate test results aren’t worth diddly because your top candidates no longer want the job. They walk away questioning your judgement and culture. I may sound jaded. But, I have seen it happen, time and again. Candidates who were initially intrigued and interested, quickly opt out of a process that is painful – and dehumanizing.
I’m not advising that you should hire blindly or never test. There is a time and place for technical assessments, assignments, and testing tools. But they need to make sense and respect the person, as well as their skills. They need to be challenging and fun, and send a positive message. Understand that this a try-out for both you and the candidate. You both need to nail it, because building a winning team is worth it.
This month marks the start of an incredible journey. With the launch of Artemis Canada, I am fulfilling a long-held entrepreneurial dream.
For more than 15 years I've been working in the Canadian technology sector.
In this time I've learned an incredible amount about the dynamics of successful teams, and have met hundreds (or maybe thousands) of individuals who make up this incredible community.
Through all of this experience, I've come to realize the value in bringing together a team that is truly aligned and focused on big goals, with innovation at its core. An eye for top talent, and an ability to rally a team around a clear and worthy mission, are the traits that define the true leaders in tech. These are my clients and partners.
I'm privileged to play a role in the success of some impressive companies, connecting incredible talent with leaders who dream big. And I'm equally proud to work with and represent brilliant professionals, helping them join winning teams where they can grow and shine.
I wouldn't have achieved this much in my career (so far!), nor have such an exciting path ahead of me without the benefit of some incredible teammates, partners, friends and mentors. So thanks everyone for helping me get here and for continuing to support me as I set out on this amazing new adventure.
We are a boutique executive search firm exclusively serving Canada’s Innovation Economy.
Our partners are the inventors, builders and leaders who are changing our world, enriching the lives of their teams, strengthening their communities and delivering valuable innovations to global marketplaces.
"I have worked closely with Kristina for approximately 15 years, reaching out to her whenever we are searching for the hardest to find skills. She understands the industry, she’s smart, she listens to exactly what we need, and she never wastes our time. Kristina, and the Artemis team, deliver time and time again. When we need an external recruiter, I find it hard to work with anyone else!"
Pete Devenyi, VP Global Software